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A Letter to My Uncle, Who Died by Suicide

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Dear Uncle John,

I wish I knew what was going through your head when you took your life one summer day in July, alone in your apartment. And before that, when you walked into a gun shop with that specific horrifying intention. It pains me clear to the soul. These are the thoughts that bring me the most tears.

Alone in your apartment.

The last time I saw you was at your mother’s funeral. You looked fine (like those with depression usually do). Your eyes had the same friendly shine. No outward signs that something was wrong. But… I didn’t get a chance talk to you, something I regret. You slipped out before I could. And you had just experienced the loss of someone so monumental in your life. Everyone felt sensitive that day.

But I often asked about you after that. Has anyone heard from Uncle John? The bits and pieces I got were quite bleak and the cruelest form of foreshadowing.

Now you rest in the ground and we’re all crushed. I’m sure the hurt this would bring to your family occurred to you, but you couldn’t force yourself to carry on one more minute on this earth. That was the depression talking, spewing its rubbish all over you.

“He had to want to change” everyone said, but it’s not as simple as that is it, Uncle John? You probably did want to change, but didn’t know how, or started to feel apathetic about it. Your depression numbing your hope. Your brain unable to bring you around to that place of hopefulness. Society and your upbringing told you having depression was shameful. So you hid.

Our family tends to be quiet about these things, as many are. It’s taboo, it brings shame, even though it never should. This infuriates me. A physical ailment should never bring shame.

Watching how hard my dad, your brothers — and how hard your twin — took your death was probably the hardest thing of all. We all lose people, but it strikes you absolutely dumb when it’s one of your own people, one of your little buddies you grew up with, that you hold closest to your heart.

They say we’ll never know what happened. But I do. Depression. It changes people. It makes you think thoughts you don’t want to and lose any sort of verve for life that you tried clinging to. I know because I’ve lived it. And I wish you knew about that too. Maybe it would’ve given us a portal to connect. Maybe we could’ve read something in each other’s eyes.

Your funeral was small, filled with your girls’ families and our family. It’s a testament to the depression pushing you further and further from the ones who cared. Because how do you tell your family and friends about your depression when no one likes depression, no one likes a downer? A support system is the greatest anchor during that turmoil, but depression pushes your support system away in more ways than one. It’s the cruelest catch-22 of all.

Uncle John, some people in the family were talking about forgiveness for you, and I know there was nothing to forgive. No one to forgive. But I wish you knew there was a way out and how to find it. Because there’s always a way out.

Uncle John, we love you and we know you should still be here with us. The emptiness at your absence fuels me to fight this beast with every cell.

Your niece,

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

Originally published: September 9, 2016
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